Post Mortem

A conceptual guide to ‘Envisioning a new Nagaland’

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 2/17/2020 12:40:08 PM IST

 The statement, “Progress is within the beholder”, in a question form is, ‘Do we have a progressive mind or the idea of progress? All of us talk about development. We expect speedy development but are not happening as we wish it to be. Opinions are divided on this issue. Some blame it to the changed pattern of state funding or lack of resources, others say peace is the prerequisite, while others opine that we are still at a transitional period and yet still others, especially those who are well-to-do think, that we have developed enough. These opinions are all superficial. The first group goes by the saying ‘a bad workman blames his tools for his inefficiency’, while the rest of the others are suffering from a mental disease called complacency, self-centeredness and lack of initiative because they are contended with what they have.

What is progress then? I shall not go into the elaborate definition of progress but the understanding of how progress takes place and what are the conditions required for it to happen? Most of us today believe that money is everything. Let us find out the validity of the contention.

Rev. Nicholas Maestrini in his forward to Piero Gheddo’s book, ‘Why is the third world poor?’ says, “Even if all the rich countries of the world were to exercise perfect justice towards the poor- even if they contributed not only one percent but ten percent of their riches- this would not mean that the underdeveloped nations would automatically set out on the road towards development. The reason is that development is not something that can be imported from abroad; it is a process which must be undertaken by means of internal force through education, the changing of mentality and pre-technical social structures, the learning of modern techniques and above all the acquisition of the concept of the dignity of man.”

We see in this exposition three main issues. They are: - 1. Change of mentality 2. Pre-technical social structures 3. Concept on the dignity of man.

1. Change of mentality: 

Saint Simon, a French Philosopher said in his writings, ‘To change society means to change attitudes, mentality.’ To illustrate what this means, let us look into the issue from a broad perspective, through a comparative study of thought process between the West and the East from three conceptual realms: Life, History and Work.

(a) In the west, man is the centre of the universe. They give importance to life values like goodness, generosity, bravery and skill. In Gracio-Roman culture, “Man is the master piece of God.” Their understanding of God is transcendence- which means that God is beyond human description, reason, knowledge and experience, in other words, God is absolute and man is the king of creations while nature is a gift from God to be enjoyed, explored and controlled, and thus it should serve to elevate man. 

What we see in the East, which includes us, is that man is understood as insignificant, corrupt and meanest of all creatures. The concept of God is immanent or present in every created thing in the natural world and hence all reality is either mythological or divinized. For the eastern man, nature, therefore, is to be contemplated, feared, submitted to and respected. Man, at the lowest step of the supernatural world, is the prisoner of matter. His destiny is to free himself and become spirit to lose himself in God. 

(b) The west has a concept of history that moves forward towards a future which is conceived as always better than the past. While for the east, the ideal is preservation of the status quo, sticking to traditions. Change, if at all, is only a renovation. Though the urge in us is to go forward yet when our ideal is the past, how can we go forward? Infatuation with the past is a disease because any society that lives the past glory cannot forge ahead and unfortunately, many of us, especially the elders, are victims of this disease. This is what makes us visionless people and ‘visionless people perish’. 

(c) The west has an anxiety to progress, which enables the individuals and the group to accept novelty, whether technical, social or culture and for them any kind of job is a job. For the east, majority of who live in a purely subsistence economy have no aspirations beyond day-to-day living. Innovative ideas come to be termed as disobedience or singled out as against the norm. 

So, what we notice here is that when an entire people or social group (tribes, clan, bureaucrats or village) is imprisoned in a traditional mentality, it is difficult even for the single individual to escape. Ultimately, we find complete lack of initiative and the courage to take risk. Fear to take risks spring from lack of vision and in turn lead to social failure, individual stupefaction and also institutional impotency and in effect, members of such a society become cowards and the law that governs is injustices where individualism and tribalism thrive at the cost of the common good that can be achieved only through sacrificing individual interests. 

The most serious by-product of such a situation is disrespect for law and eruption of all forms of anti-socials leading society to chaos. Fraud come to rule the day while the bottom line of all these is despise for manual labour, the primary factor to development, as debasing and considering it as servile and below ones dignity. This is so because people see no more pride in hard work, truth or justice and ultimately come to regard corruption as a necessary evil.

We know that the most essential condition for development is hard work, it being it’s pre-requisite. Everyone wants progress but no one tries to understand or accept the foundation that development requires. Even physiologically speaking, by the fact that we have sweat glands, we must sweat; by the fact that we have joints, we must move them or they get paralyzed. 

What is work then? Karl Marx gives us a holistic understanding of work. He says that work is the only means for man to manifest his perfection. It is through work that we transform our environment. Man is because he can work. The west understands this so well that they progress by leaps and bounds. Failure to recognize this ability turns the populace of this region into a mere parasite. Are we not?

2. Pre-technical social structures:

Saint Simon vividly affirms, ‘If you want to change society, you must necessarily change the philosophical beliefs of the people.’ The following case study has the clue to our confusion. 

a)  In Philippines, Dr. Haisin was commissioned to improve the hygienic condition of the Philippines. The technology, he came up with was to save rain water but he was confronted all along. The hurdle was that the people believed that rain is to flow over the surface of the earth and so we should not go against its natural process. For their use, they should find it in water holes. Gauging rain water was believed by his people as an insult to nature in the form of distortion.

 b) Baiga tribe in Madhya Pradesh, like most other Indians, has the concept of the earth as Mother. The difference in approach to it was they refused to cultivate land with iron (tractors) because they believed that to open the earth’s bosom is to fail to recognize its generosity. The use of wooden tools seemed less brutal. For many Asian people, who mean us included, agriculture, unlike technology, is a religious act. We had a lot of spiritual rites performed (and we still are influenced by that understanding) from the day of marking the area of cultivation till the end of carrying the paddy into the barns for a rich harvest. No wonder, all our festivals are centered on agriculture. What we fail to understand is that an infertile soil does not need prayer but manure. 

(To be concluded)

Jonas Yanthan


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